Saturday, February 15, 2014

Does John 15 Teach that a Child of God Can Lose His Salvation?

John 15 is about fruit bearing, not eternal salvation.

The misinterpretation of John 15 is a common stumbling block for many professing Christians. Many insist that the Lord's teaching in this passage is related to matters of eternal salvation. Such interpretations turn a blind eye to the fact that the Lord said to his audience, "Now ye ARE CLEAN through the word which I have spoken unto you." (John 15:3) Those previously spoken words included great and precious promises of the eternal deliverance of God's people based on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (Jesus Christ, John 14:1-3)
So we see that Jesus is addressing a group of believers to whom he has already provided an assurance of their eternal salvation based on his on intercessory work on their behalf, apart from any assistance on their part. Moreover, because the "abiding in Christ" to which our Lord exhorts his audience is undeniably an act of righteousness, it follows that it is excluded from the work that brought God's people eternal salvation by the apostle Paul who taught that we are saved, "not by works of righteousness which we have done." (Titus 3:5)

Finally, the context of the Lord's remarks is the bearing of fruit by his disciples, not the production of fruit in order to obtain eternal life. If such fruit bearing was a requirement for eternal salvation, then one's eternal salvation would undeniably be directly tied to human works and we know this is not so because our salvation is "not of works, lest any many should boast." (Ephesians 2:9)


There are two key observations required to properly interpret the Lord's words in John 15:

1. The Lord is addressing his disciples - minus Judas (John 13:30). In other words, he is addressing those who are already in possession of eternal life (John 15:3, 14:1-3).

2. The Lord's discourse is on the topic of fruit bearing, not the acquisition of eternal life. We know this is so because the Lord affirms it multiple times in his discourse. (John 15:2,4,5,8)

I submit that apart from these two observations, one would be forced to conclude that John 15 is teaching eternal salvation by works and not by grace. And we know that cannot be the case because if our salvation is by works than it is no more of grace (Romans 11:6) and the bible is very clear that we are saved by grace and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). A born again child of God is in no danger of losing the free gift of eternal salvation, but they can lose their usefulness and ability to bear fruit in the kingdom of God in this life by refusing to obey the Lord's admonition to abide in him.  


  1. This is well said. In debunking many Lordship Salvation arguments, most apologists seem to start in John 15. Setting the context of the comments by what Christ said in John 14 dispenses the the correct perspective to avoid the common misunderstanding all together.

  2. How do we approach verses like 1 John 3:8-9?

    I remember that John wrote that Jesus intercedes for us to the Father. But why would he do this if somebody continually falls into the same temptation and continually fails to resist it?

  3. RC: How do we approach verses like 1 John 3:8-9?

    TETH: We start by reconciling it with other statements that John made in his first epistle, such as the affirmation that God's people ALL commit sin. (I John 1:8) That affirmation alone forces a more precise handling of I John 3:8-9. Consider this, is your fallen Adamic nature born of God? Clearly not. Man's disobedience gave birth to his fallen nature (Romans 5:12,19). Is presence of God that indwells all of God's regenerate people that which is born of God? Yes, indeed. The regenerate are said to be "born of the Spirit" (John 3:5,6,8) Given that a regenerate man possess the indwelling Holy Spirit and also retains his fallen Adamic nature until his eventual glorification, this observation has direct bearing upon what is meant by "whosoever is born of God." (I John 3:8-9)

    TETH: Stated plainly, if we assert that "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin" means that "God's regenerate people NEVER SIN" then no man is eternally saved because we ALL sin (I John 1:8) even in a regenerate state (Matthew 16:16-17,21-23). To promote this view is to assert that the bible is a worthless pile of contractions given that it chronicles the manifold sins committed by those who were born of the Spirit of God. It follows that we should interpret this text as an affirmation that our sin arises from our fallen, diabolical nature and it NEVER arises from the Spirit of God that indwells us. The Spirit of God is incapable of inclining us to sin, because God does not so much as tempt us to sin (James 1:13).

    RC: I remember that John wrote that Jesus intercedes for us to the Father. But why would he do this if somebody continually falls into the same temptation and continually fails to resist it?

    TETH: Christ's intercession for his people is not a function of their performance in righteousness. It is a function of his love for them and the commitments he made on their behalf in the everlasting covenant when they were without strength and ungodly. The bottom line is this - we are eternally saved by Christ's intercession in spite of our many failures to do as we ought in this lifetime. Without this sort of arrangement, which the bible calls "the grace of Christ" (Galatians 1:6), no man would ever be eternally saved.

    God bless,